As The National Institute for Genealogical Studies students begin the October rotation of courses, we continue to explore the foundational research practise of developing Transcribing Skills. See below for links to our courses designed to equip our students with this vital ability. All family history researchers, no matter what their level of expertise, should strive to acquire these core research skills.
When preparing to make a transcription, it is good practice to make a digital scan of the original document and then put the physical document away. This keeps your original safe with as little handling as possible. Once you have the copy, you can make a print out and mark on it as you wish. Viewing the digital image on your computer allows you to enlarge difficult-to-read sections.
Today’s Transcription Tip is the use of Line Numbering. On your printed working copy (never the original!), number the lines on the page. This will keep you on track as you start transcribing. It is so easy to lose your place and skip to the line before or after the line you are working on, especially in a document with repetitive wording. If the lines are written unevenly, you may also want to draw lines between each numbered line to keep them separated to work on each individually.
Remember our Transcription Definition:
A transcription is a true word-for-word rendering of a document with the original punctuation and spelling (i.e., an exact copy of the original, line by line, sentence by sentence, word by word, and letter by letter). All notes and marks on any page are copied as faithfully as possible in the presented formatting. It includes all spellings, capitalizations and punctuations as it was written. No corrections are made to spelling or capitalization. It includes the whole record—front and back, with all its headings, insertions, endorsements, notations, etc.
Transcribe each line word for word – EXACTLY as it is appears on your document. Keep all of the words together on their own line. Line 7 on your transcription should only have what is written on line 7 of your document. This makes it so much easier to go back later to work on the difficult-to-read letters of words on that line. Be sure to keep all of the original spelling, capitalization and punctuation.
When all of the words on a line have been fully transcribed, mark it as completed on your working copy. When you step away and come back to the project, you will easily see where you still have work to do.
When encountering a difficult letter, refer to similar letters elsewhere in the document. On your working copy, you can make notes. Example: deb[t?] [Note: fourth letter looks the same as “t” in title on line 5] or [Is this “y” or “g”? See “apply” on line 9] These notes are for your own reference on your working copy, noting areas yet to be resolved. They would not be included in your final transcription.
Be patient! Transcriptions are NOT quick projects. They are thorough, well-honed, exact copies, especially for documents with difficult handwriting. Initially, this may seem to be unnecessarily time-consuming; however, the transcription will provide a clear and easy-to-read copy for future reference. It will save so much time when reviewing this document for your research project. Time will not be spent trying to figure out that word again, because you didn’t record your previous findings or conclusions. Quickly skimming an original document is never acceptable. Important details are overlooked and your concluding interpretation may be completely incorrect. Take the time to create accurate Transcriptions.
As researchers, we have found that there are many skills we need to employ in order to achieve success in our future research projects. Transcription Tuesday shares guidelines and practical suggestions to help our readers to develop the skills for making effective transcriptions, abstracts, and extractions.
Transcription Tuesday previous blog post
Transcription Tuesday Index
These three core courses demonstrate Transcription principles. They are offered monthly, beginning on the first Monday of every month: Register today!
Methodology-Part 2: Organizing and Skill-Building (Basic Level)
Skills: Transcribing, Abstracting & Extracting (Basic Level)
Palaeography: Reading & Understanding Historical Documents (Advanced)
Visit our website for a complete list of online courses offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. Check our Course Calendar here.
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